In Newell v. Norton, 3 Wall. 257, Mr. Justice Grier stated the considerations weighing against Supreme Court review of factual determinations: "It would be a very tedious as well as a very unprofitable task to again examine and compare the conflicting statements of the witnesses in this volume of depositions.Summary of this case from Dick v. New York Life Ins. Co.
No Number in Original
April 3, 1866, Decided. December 1865 Term
1. A libel in rem against a vessel and personally against her master may properly under the present practice of the court be joined. And if the libellant have originally proceeded against vessel, master, owners, and pilot, the libel may with leave of the court be amended so as to apply to the vessel and master only in the way mentioned.
2. Such an amendment, neither increasing nor diminishing their liability, will not discharge the sureties to the usual bond given on release of a vessel seized by process of the admiralty.
3. A person who is master and part owner of a vessel in which a cargo has been wrongly sunk by collision from another vessel, may properly represent the insurer's claim for the loss of the cargo, and proceed to enforce it in rem and in personam through the admiralty.
The court, seeing no reason to doubt the correctness of a decision below, again declares what it has often before decided, that it will not reverse from doubt where the issue is one entirely of fact, depending on the credibility of witnesses who differ in their statements, and where the District and Circuit Courts have concurred in viewing the merits. And it announces emphatically that in cases where both courts below concur, parties need not bring appeals here with the expectation of reversal because they can find in a mass of conflicting testimony enough to support the appellant's allegation if the testimony of the other side be wholly rejected, or by attacking the character of witnesses and so raising a mere doubt as to what justice required.
Mr. Speed, A. G., and Mr. Ashton, acting as private counsel, for the appellants: It has never been decided nor recognized as a principle of admiralty practice that the misjoinder of actions can be cured by putting the libellant to his election. The libel ought to have been dismissed, and then the party asserting himself to be aggrieved could have filed his libel rightly. Before the adoption of the admiralty rules of 1845, the proceeding in rem could not be joined with a suit in personam; and the right to unite these distinct remedies in the same libel is given solely by virtue of these rules. By authorizing the two remedies to be blended in the same libel they made an innovation in established practice, and the libellant must have complied literally with their provision. The amending of a libel, all wrong originally, was improper.
Mr. Justice GRIER delivered the opinion of the court.
The libel in this suit was originally against the steamboat Hill, and against the master, who was part owner, and, also, against the pilot. It was amended in the District Court by dismissing it as to the pilot, and sustained as against the vessel and the master, or owner. The allowance of this amendment was within the discretion of the court, and was very proper. The objection that a libel in rem against a vessel, and in personam against the owner, cannot be joined, was properly overruled; as it was in conformity with the 15th rule in admiralty as established by this court.
It has been objected here, that the allowance of the amendment was injurious to the sureties in the bond given for the property. But this objection is without foundation, as their liability was neither increased nor diminished. "Every person bailing such property is considered as holding it subject to all legal dispositions of the court." 9
It has been contended, also, that the right of the libellant to sustain this action ceased by his abandonment to the underwriters. The Circuit Court very properly ruled, that as the libellant was the owner and master of the steamer World he was the bailee of the cargo, and so responsible to the shippers or insurers for the safe transportation and delivery thereof, and to fulfil his obligations and secure his reward, he was entitled to possession, and might maintain an action for its destruction. 10 "The respondent is not presumed to know or bound to inquire as to the relative equities of parties claiming the damages. He is bound to make satisfaction for the injury he has done.When he has once made it to the injured parties, he cannot be made liable to another suit at the instance of any merely equitable claimant." 11
The question of merits was the next question argued.
During the five years in which this case was pending in the District and Circuit Court, more than a hundred depositions have been taken. In these there is the usual conflict of testimony which always attends such cases. The issue is one entirely of fact, and depending on the credibility of witnesses. The District and Circuit Courts, after patient investigation of the testimony, concur in the opinion that the libellant has fully established his case. The record contains the opinion delivered by the learned judge of the Circuit Court, which fully vindicates the correctness of his decree.
It would be a very tedious as well as a very unprofitable task to again examine and compare the conflicting statements of the witnesses in this volume of depositions. And, even if we could make our opinion intelligible, the case could never be a precedent for any other case, or worth the trouble of understanding.
It is enough to say that we find ample testimony to support the decision, if believed; and that we again repeat, what we have often before decided, that in such cases, parties should not appeal to this court with any expectation that we will reverse the decision of the courts below, because counsel can find in the mass of conflicting testimony enough to support the allegations of the appellant, if the testimony of the appellee be entirely disregarded; or by attacking the character of his witnesses when the truth of their testimony has been sustained by the opinions of both the courts below. Parties ought not to expect this court to revise their decrees merely on a doubt raised in our minds as to the correctness of their judgment, on the credibility of witnesses, or the weight of conflicting testimony. In the present case we see no reason to doubt the correctness of the decision of the Circuit Court, which is accordingly
AFFIRMED WITH COSTS.